Crime Fiction Mark Bailey TV

Review – Jo (TV Series, 2013)

Review – Jo (TV Series, 2013)


Jo is the first TV series to make it to the UK in the latest trend to make French shows in English, sell them abroad and then dub them into French for the home market.

Joachim ‘Jo’ Saint-Clair (played by Jean Reno) is a veteran detective who has been a a drug abuser with an estranged daughter, Adele, from a liaison with a prostitute.

He has a young eyecandy sidekick (Bayard played by Tom Austen), a tough boss (played by Orla Brady), a pathogist (played by Wunmi Mosaku) and a a ferociously intelligent nerd colleague (played by Celyn Jones) to aid him in his investigation and a wisecracking nun (played by Jill Hennessy) to confide in.

The good points are:

  • Jean Reno. Like Brian Cox, he could read the telephone directory and it would be watchable.
  • Jo’s private life is fascinating and is a lot more interesting than the crimeS he solves.
  • The pathologist and the nerdy sidekick provide an intellectual counterpoint to the raw emotion of Jo and are very well acted.

The bad points are

  • The eye candy sidekick does not work for me at all nor does the tough boss.
  • The plots of the crimes solved vary from the mind-numbingly obvious to the ‘where did that come from?’
  • Assuming Spiral (Engerenages) and other such shows are vaguely correct about the French legal system, this bears no resemblance to it.
  • Tied to the last point, this is a US cop series transplanted to France without changing the milieu at all other than the great use of Parisian landmarks.

The so-so points are

  • Jill Hennessy does well with what is an odd role being a nun but also Jo’s sex interest but is woefully underused.

I really would like to have liked this more than I did but it would have needed major reworking for a second series which does not seem to be happening despite good ratings outside France, the ratings in France were deemed too poor (5.3m by the final episode) for a series costing €2 million per episode.

Out of ten, 5 or 6 for being a  really valiant effort at something similar to Van der Valk in the 1970s – an English language police series set overseas.



Christopher Fowler Crime Fiction Euro Crime Mark Bailey Reviews

Review: Bryant & May and The Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler

Bryant & May and The Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler

Hardback: 350 pages (September 2011)

Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780857520494



BRYANT & MAY AND THE MEMORY OF BLOOD is the ninth book about Arthur Bryant, John May and their Peculiar Crimes Unit of the Metropolitan Police.


BRYANT & MAY AND THE MEMORY OF BLOOD begins with some scene setting chapters to settle new readers in before the first murder occurs – Robert Kramer, ruthless property developer turned theatre impresario, is throwing a party in his new penthouse just off Trafalgar Square (London is effectively a character in Bryant & May novels and undoubtedly Christopher Fowler is strong on characterisation). The air at the party is uncomfortable and full of foreboding and when Kramer’s young wife checks on their baby boy, she finds the nursery door locked from the inside. When the door is broken open, the Kramers are faced with an open window, an empty cot, and a grotesque antique puppet of Mr Punch lying on the floor.


This is another strong Bryant & May novel from Christopher Fowler with the usual intricate plot full of both twists and turns and strong characters who are nine-tenths believable and one-tenth fantastical.


For the benefit of new readers, the author does include a short briefing report on the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and the history of the unit at the start of the novel but other reviews I have seen by newcomers to the series suggest that this (perhaps more than others) can be enjoyed without having read the rest of the series.


One question that might occur to the prospective reader is how Christopher Fowler compares in an increasingly crowded field of fantasy detective stories such as Jasper Ffordes Thursday Next novels and Ben Aaronovitchs Grant and Nightingale novels (also working for the Metropolitan Police in the Economic and Specialist Crime Unit). The answer, I think, is still very well.

This is a not a new field with fantasy having been mixed with private eyes (e.g. Tanya Huffs Vicki Nelson, Mike Resnick’s John Justin Mallory and Malcolm Prices Louie Knight) and police procedurals (e.g. Terry Pratchetts Samuel Vimes) in recent years whilst the notion of occult detectives has been around since the late nineteenth century such as with William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki, the Ghost Finder from 1910 onwards.


Bryant, May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit will return in BRYANT & MAY AND THE INVISIBLE CODE which the author describes as having “a plot that operates both as a single case, but completes an arc that has been continuing for the last four books, taking it to a new point in the story.” My preorder is already in for holiday reading next summer.

This review originally appeared at Euro Crime

Crime Fiction Euro Crime Mark Bailey Peter James Reviews

Review: Not Dead Yet by Peter James

Not Dead Yet by Peter James

UK Hardback: 560 pages (June 2012) Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780230747265

UK EPUB: (June 2012) Publisher: Pan ISBN: 9780230764897

UK Paperback: 624 pages (September 2012) Publisher: Pan ISBN: 9780330515578


NOT DEAD YET is the eighth in the series of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace novels by Peter James and follows on from the events of DEAD MAN’S GRIP for Roy Grace and his team.


The worlds of Tinseltown and Brighton clash as a movie adaption of the relationship between King George IV and Maria Fitzherbert hits town.

This is a make or break project for LA producer Larry Brooker who is on the verge of insolvency.

This could be the project that enables Gaia to make the shift from rock superstar to serious actress.

The City of Brighton and Hove relishes the publicity value of a major Hollywood movie being filmed on location there which could be incalculable for tourist revenue and attracting future films.

For Gaias number one fan, it is the chance to cement their relationship.

These events collide to become a nightmare for Detective Superintendent Roy Grace when an attempt on the life of Gaia is made days before she leaves her Bel Air home to fly to Brighton (her home town) so he has to juggle the hunt for a potential obsessed stalker in his city with an ongoing murder investigation with very few leads and the continuing pregnancy complications of his girlfriend, Cleo.

Also the significant figure from his past is now getting much closer to home.


This is crime fiction for those who like to have well-rounded detectives with a believable private life.

One question which immediately springs to mind is who is Gaia based upon – Peter James did confirm in an interview on BBC Breakfast that he saw Gaia as a cross between Madonna and Lady Gaga  (still online at the moment at – at least in the UK)

The short snappy chapters that are a Peter James trademark (127 chapters in 560 pages in the hardback edition) are still there so you find it hard to put it down – you do tend to think I have time for just one more chapter.

The slight hint of unrealism is still there especially in the significant figure from his past who I do hope is brought to the fore in the next book as that back story is starting to drag on quite a bit.

Once again I would say that it is a very good read that engages you from the first page and I, for one, am looking forward to the next novel in the series – I would stress that it is becoming more the case that you will appreciate it much more if you read the series in sequence.

This review originally appeared at Euro Crime


Crime Fiction Euro Crime Mark Bailey Peter James Reviews

Review: Dead Man’s Grip by Peter James

Dead Man’s Grip by Peter James

Hardback: 544 pages (May 2011)

Publisher: Macmillan  ISBN: 978-0230747258


Dead Man’s Grip is the seventh in the series of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace novels by Peter James.

Roy Grace and his team investigate a road traffic accident in Brighton, Sussex where an American student Tony Revere has died of his injuries after his bicycle was shunted into the path of an articulated lorry. Was this entirely an accident or was there a deeper motive is one of the questions that Roy Grace and his team have to ask as the investigation escalates down dark avenues.

The novel is primarily concerned with the consequences of that accident for the family of Tony Revere, Carly Chase (a solicitor specialising in divorce law) who swerved to avoid him and crashed into a café window, for lorry driver Stuart Ferguson who had been driving for more hours than is legally permitted and the unknown driver of the white van who either accidentally or deliberately shunted Tony Revere into the path of Stuart Fergusons lorry.

It is also concerned with Roy Graces private life where his girlfriend, Cleo, is having complications with the pregnancy of their child, his work is becoming less investigative and more paper work (a change he does not like), and a significant figure from his past reappears and looks like they will be returning in a later book.

This was a real page turner for me with the short snappy chapters that are a Peter James trademark (115 chapters in 544 pages in the hardback edition for this book) which I find that you just have to continue reading. Some of the plot strands do tends towards being significantly less realistic than has been the case in previous Roy Grace novels but overall it is still a very good read that engages you from the first page and I, for one, am looking forward to the next novel in the series.

Dead Man’s Grip can be read as a standalone novel but you will appreciate it more if you read the series in sequence.

This review originally appeared at Euro Crime

Crime Fiction Euro Crime Mark Bailey Reviews United Kingdom

Review: The Killing Pool by Keith Sampson

The Killing Pool by Keith Sampson

Hardback: 320 pages (March 2013)

Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN: 978-0224073059

The Killing Pool hi res

A headless corpse is discovered by Detective Chief Inspector Billy McCartney in scrubland close to Liverpool docks with the body looking like a gangland hit. A mile away, a dazed and confused girl staggers into a run-down bar where the owner, a career criminal called Shakespeare, cannot get a word out of her.

The body was that of Kalan Rozaki, youngest brother of a notorious crime family but he was the white sheep in the family. For almost a year his brothers have been under full-time Drug Squad surveillance as DCI McCartney slowly closed the net on their heroin trafficking – his chief informant was someone who had insider knowledge of the Rozaki clan’s operation … their newly deceased baby brother, Kalan.

His investigation starts to solve not only this crime but another unsolved drug crime of nearly 30 years ago.

I have to admit that I found this one a struggle to get through. There is a very competent police procedural hidden within here but the structure of multiple viewpoints which you shift from sometimes on a pagely basis in the initial pages makes it very difficult to keep track of the narrative unless you are really concentrating – it is not a commute read.

I might be tempted by the next one as this is described as the first in a series but I would like to read a few reviews first.

This review originally appeared at Euro Crime